Peter Bol is set to chase Australia’s first medal in the Olympic 800m since 1968 as the country’s athletes turn up the heat in the hunt for gold on Wednesday in Tokyo.
It comes after a sensational day’s performance for Australia as the Boomers thumped their way past Argentina to reach the semi-finals, and the Kookaburras buried Germany for a finals berth on Tuesday night.
Australia enters day 12, fourth on the medals tally, with 14 gold medals, four silver, and fifteen bronze, with Bol leading the way for more.
Bol will aim to break a third-straight national record in as many races when he contests the 800m final on Wednesday evening.
And if he achieves that feat, there’s every chance the 27-year-old Bol will also become the first Australian since 1968 Mexico City Games gold medallist Ralph Doubell to win an Olympic 800m medal.
Doubell’s winning time of one minute 44.40 seconds from Mexico City stood untouched as the Australian record for a remarkable 46 years before it was equalled by Alex Rowe in 2014.
Bol, 27, has run 1:44.13 and 1:44.11 in the opening round and semi-finals in Tokyo – and on both occasions appeared to have a bit left in reserve.
But it is a gold medal, not records or times, that Bol cares about.
“The plan stays the same,” Bol said.
“We’re here to race. We’re not here to chase times.
“Times and records can go. I took (training partner and close friend Joseph Deng’s) record.
“But championships and golds are forever, so that’s what we’re chasing.”
Meanwhile, alcohol-fuelled antics by some Australian athletes on-board a flight home threatens to overshadow on-field performances, with Rugby Australia and Football Australia investigating incidents involving Olympians and “unacceptable” behaviour.
The men’s Rugby Sevens team, which suffered a quarter-final loss, and the Olyroos, who failed to progress beyond the group stage of their Olympic campaign are both under the microscope.
In more positive news out of Tuesday night, Australia dominated Argentina in the basketball, 97-59, to set up a mouth-watering Olympic semi-final date with the United States.
A nervy Australia led the quarter-final by six at half-time and 12 at the final break, then scored the first 19 points of the fourth term to send a statement ahead of their Thursday date with the three-time defending Olympic champions.
Patty Mills led all scorers with 18 points while Nick Kay finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Boomers have never medalled in an international tournament, with many of this current crop involved in gutting fourth-place finishes at the 2019 World Cup and 2016 Rio Games.
Standing in their way of gold is the United States, which they beat in an exhibition game last month.
Meanwhile, in women’s basketball, the Opals will start outsiders in their quarter-final against the United States.
Australia rescued its Games campaign from the flames on Monday, with a last-ditch 27-point defeat – 96-69 – of Puerto Rico to progress to the match-up with the US.
The Kookaburras made their way through to the Tokyo men’s hockey gold medal match after a 3-1 win over Germany in a pulsating semi-final on Tuesday night.
It’s the first time Australia has made the Olympic men’s hockey final since 2004.
Austalia will play world champions Belgium, who booked their finals spot earlier on Tuesday by beating India 5-2, for the gold medal on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy are on the cusp of securing Australia’s first Olympic medal in beach volleyball since 2000, having prevailed in a quarter-final they likened to a gold-medal match at Tokyo’s Shiokaze Park.
Artacho del Solar and Clancy defeated Canada’s reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 21-15 19-21 15-12 on Tuesday night, taking 56 minutes to advance to the semi-finals.
In the pool, the Stingers suffered a tragic quarter-final loss to Russia, 9-8, ending Australia’s bid for its first Olympic medal in water polo since 2012.
Before Bol lights up the track on Wednesday, the precociously talented Ash Moloney and fellow Australian Cedric Dubler begin their campaigns in the decathlon at the main stadium.
Many good judges believe Moloney has all the tools to do remarkable things in the draining 10-discipline event – perhaps as soon as this week in the Japanese capital.
Also on Wednesday, sailors Mat Belcher and Will Ryan are poised to win Australia’s 15th gold medal at the Tokyo Games.
They only need to finish the medal race in the 470 class and not be disqualified – the same scenario facing compatriot Matt Wearn when he took out the Laser gold.
After a tumultuous two days of competition at the track cycling, Australia will ride off against New Zealand for bronze in the men’s team pursuit.
Alex Porter could return to the lineup after face planting in their initial qualifying ride when the handlebar snapped off his bike.
Denmark, whose first-round heat on Tuesday also ended in high drama when a Danish rider ran into a British opponent, will ride off against Italy for gold.
Two new Olympics sports continue on Wednesday, with Poppy Star Olsen in the skateboarding and sport climber Oceana Mackenzie having her qualifying rounds.
Minjee Lee and Hannah Green will be strong medal contenders as the women’s golf tournament starts and Kareena Lee will contest the 10km marathon swim.
Diver Melissa Wu, competing at her fourth Olympics, will join Nikita Haines in the 10m preliminary round.
– with AAP